After 2 weeks in Bolivia it doesn't take long to work out that generally speaking not only are the roads bad but the buses are too - and that's being polite. The journey from Uyuni to Tupiza was a typical example. We bascially took a dirt track to the next town where we had to change buses. It wouldn't have been so bad if the drvier had slowed down for every pothole he saw. In fact he did the opposite and drove at breakneck speed right at them. At one point the people on the right of the bus had to stand up to hold the luggage rack in place. After 2 hours we changed buses for yet another bone jangling ride. The Italian Job has nothing on Bolivian bus drivers. They can swing the back of the bus around hair pin bends on the side of a mountain along with the best of them.
It was with some relief that I arrived in Tupiza which was a lovely town in the south of Bolivia. It was in a valley that cut through the desert and you came into the town through a canyon strewn with cactus and these amazing rock formations. Decided to go horseback riding but despite not being on the back of a horse for 18 months and even then hardly an expert horse person I decided it would be a good idea to do a 7 hour trek. Duh! Despite managing to lose yet another pair of sunglasses when Simon my guide decided we should canter at breakneck speed through the mountains it was a great day. The scenery was amazing and it was a lot of fun crossing the river on horseback. Yee hah!
Mind you I could hardly walk the next day. Thank god all I had to do was sit on a bus all day! Arrived in Potosi late afternmoon in the pouring rain. It was pretty grim and the town had clearly seen better days. Managed to get a tour to the mines of Cerro Rico for the day after and found a great cafe to dry out in! Before the tour you had to sign a pretty heavy disclaimer and once you entered the mines you found out why. After getting suited and booted in yet another fetching outfit first stop was the Miners Market where you could freely buy dynamite and explosives. You can forget having to have a permit of any sort, ID, etc., or it being securely stored, etc. You just handed over your cash and they dropped it into a plastic bag.
Despite seeing what is considered a sanitised version of the mine it was fairly unpleasant hence the disclaimer about claustrophobia, heart problems, breathing problems, etc. The air was full of dust and it was incredibly hot. You have to question what sort of country puts children to work in such inhuman conditions, or even the motives behind tourists (including me) wanting to see it. It was grim.
The next day I went to see La Mondea an incredible museum of about 200 rooms set around 5 internal courtyards. It housed some impressive artifacts but you have to wonder how much they spend on maintaining it while outside whole families are on the streets living a bleak existence. Seeing kids eating out of rubbish bins and whole families running across the main square everytime a truck pulled up with a handout was a salutory reminder of how fortunate I am.
After Potosi I went north east to Sucre for Christmas which was apt given it is known as the White City. Neon signs are banned and a municipal regulation requires all buildings to be white washed once a year. As it was Christmas I splashed out a whole 7 quid for a private room , air con and cable TV. Luxury! Despite it being red hot during the day it pissed down with rain on Christmas Eve so I called it a day with the old sightseeing and went to the cinema. It was a huge cinema but it had a strange odour. I moved seats about 4 timnes but I still couldn't get rid of the smell. Half way through I discovered the reason why when this huge white cat flung itself at me in the dark. I was not best pleased as you can imagine! I never even got to see the end of the film as there was a power cut. So if anyone has seen Super Cool and can tell me what happened I would be grateful.
Christmas Day and the sun came out. Surprsingly there were quite a few places open so I bought wine, chocolate, olives, cheese and bread. All the essentials for Christmas lunch. Had a nice wqlk through the town but then the heavens opened so retired to the hostal to eat lunch. In the end met up with a friend and ended up partying to the wee small hours so it was fun.
Mind you I was chuchacy the next day which not even a huge piece of cake could cure. Boxing Day we went to Cal Orko home to the worlds largest collection of dinosaur footprints discovered about 10 years ago by some workers at a cement works. There were some 5000 or so prints from at least 150 different types of dinosaur so it was pretty cool. We spent the day with a really nice Bolivian family so a good time was had by all and once I had had a few more beers I even felt better too! Love that hair of the dog!